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VA Gait Lab

The mission of our lab is to advance the scientific knowledge of movement, performance and behavioral mechanisms of functional recovery in mobility-impaired Veterans. We study innovative behavioral, exercise and motor retraining interventions to improve deficits in movement, muscle, metabolic and performance characteristics in Veterans during physical recovery. The clinical research conducted in our lab using state-of-the-art measurement techniques including marker-based motion analysis, instrumented force plates, muscle performance, metabolic function and performance-based outcomes.

Our lab is a clinical research facility focused on two main focuses: 1) understanding how quality of movement influences functional recovery in mobility-impaired Veterans and 2) using innovative technology to evaluate, treat and improve functional recovery in Veterans with deficits in physical function. We are located at the VA Salt Lake City Medical Center campus (Building 8).

Ongoing research interest include osteoarthritis, total joint arthroplasty and amputation. We also contribute to research studying motion and functional recovery experienced by osteointegration for upper and lower limb amputees. Our group maintains active collaborations with clinicians and researchers in the Department of Physical Therapy, Orthopaedics, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Bioengineering and Internal Medicine throughout the Veterans Affairs and University of Utah healthcare systems. 

Jesse C. Christensen, DPT, PhD

Dr. Christensen serves as the Gait Lab director at the VA Salt Lake City Healthcare System and assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training and adjunct instructor in the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of Utah. His research uses innovative and multifaceted approaches to evaluate treatment strategies designed to enhance the effectiveness of rehabilitation in Veterans. He has collaborative relationships with multiple departments as  principal investigator and co-principal investigator on studies focused on osteoarthritis, total joint replacement and amputee biomechanics and behavioral health research.

K. Bo Foreman, PT, PhD 

Dr. Foreman is a professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training at the University of Utah and works part-time at the VA Salt Lake City Healthcare System.  In addition, he is the director of the Motion Analysis Core Facility at the University of Utah. His research interests are in the area biomechanics, specifically the investigation of the kinetic and kinematic changes that result from clinical interventions or disease progression.  He currently collaborates with colleagues from multiple departments as principal investigator and co-principal investigator on projects ranging from amputee biomechanics to falls research.

Sarina K. Sinclair, PhD

Dr.  S. Sinclair is a research investigator at the VA Salt Lake City Healthcare System and assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of Utah. Her research focuses on bone response to osseointegrated implant materials, the development of mesenchymal stem cell-based bone graft systems and cellular therapies for orthopedic applications. Her other research interests include the skeletal response to orthopedic devices, at home patient monitoring and working to improve clinical care for Veteran populations. She serves as the national chair of a clinical trial for an osseointegrated design for above-knee amputees funded by the Department of Veteran Affairs Cooperative Studies Program and industry sponsor DJO Surgical.

Heath B. Henninger, PhD 

Dr. Henninger is a research investigator at the VA Salt Lake City Healthcare System and associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedics with Adjunct appointments in Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah. His research studying the motion and forces experienced by the humerus in percutaneous osseointegrated docking systems for upper extremity amputees. He applies (bio)mechanical engineering principles to study the kinematics of the shoulder, as well as stress/strain relationships of the tissues within the joint. His research also examines the relationships between the 3D morphology of the scapula and humerus as they relate to pathology and clinical indications for surgery.

Kristofer DSinclairPhD 

Dr. K. Sinclair is a research investigator at the VA Salt Lake City Healthcare System. His research interests are in developing techniques to utilize commercially available devices for monitoring the community activity of Veterans with lower extremity amputation. He is also working with multiple colleagues to identify limitations within and provide solutions for Veterans that are being treated at VA facilities for lower and upper limb trauma and disease.

Camera system

24-camera VICON motion analysis systems (Vicon Motion Systems Ltd, Oxford, UK) with a sampling rate of up to 500 Hz is equip in our lab. Our system has two computer workstation that contains all the necessary software for synchronization and post-processing of the kinetic and kinematic data.

Force plates

12 Bertec (Bertec Corp., Columbus, Ohio) in-ground force plates with an individual 1000 lbs capacity to collect forces and moments during testing is equip in our lab. 

Instrumented treadmill

A Bertec FIT (Fully Instrumented Treadmill) featuring two independent belts with full length force plates, which enables continuous data collection is equip in our lab. The treadmill can be inclined up to 15 degrees, enabling participants to walk up and downhill. The treadmill is also equipped with a full-body harness for safety.

Biodex

A System 4 Biodex (Biodex Medical Systems, Inc., Shirley, New York) multi-mode computerized robotic measuring instrument designed to measure muscle strength is housed in our lab. The Biodex has a torque capacity of 400-500 ft-lbs (542-680 Nm) and passive speeds can be set as low as 0.25 degrees per second and as fast as 300 degrees per second.

Instrumented insoles

Multiple Novel Loadsol (Novel Electronics Inc., St. Paul, Minnesota) instrumented insoles with an individual 5000 N capacity and sampling rate of up to 200 Hz is housed in our clinic and lab. The Loadsols are designed to measure force output with a wireless connected iOS device for visual/audio biofeedback for measuring force production between limbs. 

ActiGraph physical activity monitors

Multiple ActiGraph (ActiGraph LLC, Pensacola, Florida) wireless physical activity monitors with a sampling rate of up to 100 Hz and up to 180 days of data storage capacity are housed in our lab. The ActiGraph monitors provide individual 3-axis accelerometer and digital filtering technology designed to wireless monitor physical activity. 

Software

In addition to the equipment and instrumentation, our lab computers contain the necessary software for programming of synchronization of the kinetic and kinematic data (Vicon Nexus) as well as post processing of the data (Matlab, Vicon Polygon, Vicon BodyBuilder, Visual 3D, ActiLife and OpenSim). Also available are licensed copies of STATA for statistical analysis and Microsoft Office.

Interested in joining the lab?

We are currently looking for students who are interested in studying movement, performance and behavioral mechanisms of functional recovery in mobility-impaired adults.

Research fellows

Continue your training with us. Share your big ideas and vision for your research program. Tell us how our lab can help you achieve them. Applicants for postdoctoral training should contact Dr. Christensen. Please include your CV, cover letter and professional references.

Graduate students

Prospective graduate students apply to the Rehabilitation Science PhD program at the University of Utah. We welcome students to contact Dr. Christensen to inquire about potential clinical or research rotational experiences in the lab.

Undergraduate students

We welcome prospective undergraduate students to participate in our research opportunities and apply to the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program or Summer Program for Undergraduate Research. Please contact Dr. Christensen directly to discuss opportunities.

 

Contact

Jesse Christensen, DPT, PhD
Lab director
George E. Wahlen Department of VA Medical Center
500 Foothill Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84148 (Building 8)
801-582-1565, ext. 3821
jesse.christensen@va.gov

Campus map - George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center